Recipe: Double chocolate beetroot cake

22:05, May 19 2013
Favourite: The velvety, double-chocolate mud cake.

This week comes with a sadness that must be embraced. My formal-style vegetable plot, with bark paths built lovingly by my husband, now belongs to someone else. I hope they feast on raspberries and apples and season everything with fresh lime.

Our car pulled away, with husband, baby and dog, my head excited about fresh dirt. Come summer, it will be brimming with food and flowers and bees.

Even if you have the same garden in the same place for a lifetime, it will nearly entirely replenish itself over the space of a year or two. Rotation, new crops, better ideas, dismal failures, leaf fall, pruning, periods of neglect and overt attention all change the shape of a plot.

Some gardening books would have you believe that poisons, balls of fertiliser and liquid concoctions with hazard warnings are the norm - gardeners engaged in chemical warfare with nature, in search of large, uniform specimens. I hope this kind of gardening - where soils are balanced by applications of NPK, plants are rendered viable by genetic modification and profitable by sterilisation - is being relegated to the scrap heap.

Thankfully, there has always been a group of earth-loving gardeners keeping it natural.

As a child of a recalcitrant hippy community in Northland, I thought that controlling plants with chemicals was a crime. Vegetables dipped in pesticides were as horrifying as the Cold War threat of nuclear winters. The camaraderie of No Nukes, along with a political climate of protest, set me up to believe I should do it my way and make a difference.


The current discussions on the irradiation of imported capsicums and tomatoes makes what once seemed like the fey ideas of a child a cold, hard reality.

The garden is my frontline in the war against nature. Every compost layer is a battle won, each harvested vegetable a triumph. Rather than freak out, I garden. My garden is the most affordable way to provide my family with safe, natural food. I take pride in the contribution to the planet created by my compost heap and worm farm. It takes little time to transfer food from my kitchen compost container to the worm farm or compost heap.

This planet saving costs me an extra 30 seconds a day - barely five minutes more than the weekly rolling of the urban rubbish bin to the curb for collection. My compost arrives back in the garden, part of the great glorious cycle of decomposition.

Grasping firmly the top of a homegrown beetroot and dusting off my own dirt makes for a happy day. Washed and shredded, the leaves can be folded into salads or even wilted into soups and stews.

According to Harold McGee in McGee on Food & Cooking, beetroot has an earthy-smelling molecule called geosmin. This is why it has a hint of the garden even when washed and cooked, making it the perfect ingredient for this rich, velvety, double-chocolate mud cake. The chocolate, the musky hint of soil and the sweetness of the honey make this cake sublime. Honey varies in its sweetness, so taste the batter and add more if required.

50g Dutch process cocoa

3 free-range eggs

3 free-range eggs Seeds of one vanilla pod (or 1 tsp vanilla extract) 100g dark chocolate, roughly chopped 300g beetroot, peeled and grated For the ganache: 50ml cream 100g dark chocolate, chopped 1/2 tsp grapeseed or olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 170C. Line a 22cm cake tin with baking paper.

2. Sift the dry ingredients into a bowl. Whisk together the honey, oil, eggs and vanilla. Stir through the chocolate and beetroot.

3. Fold the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and pour into the prepared tin. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin. Cool completely before icing with the chocolate ganache.

4. To make the ganache, warm the cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Add the chopped chocolate. Turn off the heat and leave to melt for 10 minutes. Stir in the oil with a clean, dry metal spoon.

4. To make the ganache, warm the cream in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. Add the chopped chocolate. Turn off the heat and leave to melt for 10 minutes. Stir in the oil with a clean, dry metal spoon.

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